Mar 30, 2023 - Sports

New Tampa Bay Rays documentary airs on Opening Day

The expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays (R) and the Detroit Tigers (L) in 1998 before Tampa Bay's first game in the new Tropicana Field. Photo: Peter Muhly/AFP via Getty Images

It's the Tampa Bay Rays's 25th Opening Day, and just like they did a quarter-century ago, the Rays are taking on the Detroit Tigers.

Driving the news: WEDU has produced a new documentary, "Rise of the Rays," looking back on that what led to that first game with local politicians, business leaders and sports reporters.

  • It premiers Thursday at 9pm, after the Rays' 3:10pm game at Tropicana Field, and will rerun on WEDU and WEDQ if you miss it.

The intrigue: The documentary uncovers "years of lies, double-crosses, questionable civic decisions, public proclamations and behind-the-scenes negotiations" that led to Tampa Bay getting into the major leagues, as described by WEDU.

  • Plus: "A white elephant stadium, time-bending political shenanigans, hope, contracts, and always in the end, disappointment."

The big picture: The Rays' past challenges are reminiscent of the team's current battle to get a new stadium.

What they're saying: WEDU CEO Paul Grove experienced the Rays' rise as it was happening, so he's excited to share the story with a new generation. He moved back to Tampa from a Tennessee PBS station to run WEDU in 2020, the year the Rays won the AL Championship Series.

  • "I've got four boys in their 20s, and they have no idea about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and that there were seven failures to bring baseball to this community," Grove tells Axios.
  • "All my sons know is Champa Bay. The Bucs won a Super Bowl, us getting Tom Brady, the Lightning winning two Stanley Cups. ... They're like, 'This is the greatest sports town in the world!' and I'm like, 'You have no idea what we went through to make it that.'"

Go deeper: Get the inside baseball on the Rays/Tigers matchup from the MLB.


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